A stunning incident occurred during the Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway on September 25. William Byron intentionally hit Denny Hamlin from behind under caution and sent him spinning through the infield grass. Now he will potentially face some repercussions.
Scott Miller, NASCAR’s SVP of competition, met with reporters after Tyler Reddick won his third race of the 2022 Cup Series season. He said that the officials will examine the incident after getting back to work. He did not say what these penalties could include, only that they will work through the possibilities.
The incident occurred during the final stage. Martin Truex Jr. had the lead when his tire blew and sent him hard into the wall. NASCAR threw the caution as the cameras focused on the No. 19 Toyota Camry TRD. However, they then showed Hamlin sliding through the infield grass.
There were questions about what happened that led to Hamlin spinning. There wasn’t a clear angle showing the incident from the outside of the cars. Though Byron’s in-car camera showed him pulling up behind Hamlin and hitting him with some force.
“Yeah, he ran me out of room,” Byron said after the race. “The toe link. We’re lucky we finished. It was really, really hard contact. It wasn’t like just a light contact or anything like that. Yeah, I didn’t mean to obviously spin him out over there. Obviously, I’m pissed off, just not going to get run like that. We’ve always raced so well together. I don’t know what it was all about. The No. 19 took his air away, he ran out of racetrack, so he chose to run me out of racetrack completely.”
NASCAR Actually Missed the Incident
One of the biggest talking points in the immediate aftermath of the incident focused on the response from NASCAR Race Control. There were questions about why Byron was able to keep his spot on the track while Hamlin had to line up behind Austin Cindric after his trip through the grass. Wouldn’t he be able to retake his spot after getting sent through the grass under caution?
“I’ll have to be honest with you, when we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller told the assembled reporters after the race at Texas Motor Speedway.
“The William Byron, Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass. By the time we got to a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”
Miller faced questions about how they could have missed this incident. He said that the monitors and cameras that they have are dedicated to officiating and their safety vehicles. They don’t have any setups for the in-car cameras, such as the one that showed Byron hitting Hamlin. Miller said that they are looking at ways to prevent other missed incidents in the future.
“[Two] Texas races, [two] press conferences explaining how I got screwed,” Hamlin tweeted after seeing Miller’s comments. He also took exception to Miller saying that they missed the incident while saying that the incident played on the screen multiple times during caution.
Byron Has Little Wiggle Room in the Standings
No one knows for certain if NASCAR will issue a penalty to Byron and the No. 24 team. This answer likely will not come until Tuesday, September 27. A points penalty is possible, which could pose some issues for Byron’s championship hopes.
The driver of the No. 24 team is currently above the cutline after the first race of the Round of 12. He does not have much wiggle room if NASCAR decides to go this route considering that he is only 17 points above the cutline. A sizable penalty could knock him well below the cutline.
NASCAR has a sliding scale of potential penalties for aggressive driving. If the officials see the incident in the race, they could assess a two-race penalty as they did to Justin Haley after he turned Riley Herbst into the wall during an Xfinity Series race in 2020.
Another example is Noah Gragson. He intentionally turned into Sage Karam during a race at Road America and sparked a 13-car wreck. NASCAR responded by issuing a $35,000 fine and a 30-point penalty.
None of these scenarios are directly comparable, especially with Haley and Gragson both receiving their penalties in the Xfinity Series and Byron racing in the Cup Series. However, they provide an interesting look at the possibilities that exist for NASCAR officials.
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